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UB Shake Table Test of Container Cranes

Largest Ever Performed in the United States

Container cranes are used to load and unload ships in ports and are
critical to port operations. Past earthquakes have highlighted their
vulnerability to damage from even moderate earthquakes. During
the 1995 Kobe, Japan earthquake, many container cranes at the Port
of Kobe either collapsed or were damaged beyond repair, leading to
significant economic losses for the port and surrounding region.
Since cranes are unique structures and their replacement can take more than a year, their
functionality after an earthquake is critical to the continued operation of the port as well as
post-disaster recovery for the region where they are located, as has been demonstrated
recently in Haiti. Despite importance of container cranes, this
NSF-funded Grand Challenge project, which is part of the George
E. Brown, Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation
(NEES) research program, is the first time their seismic
performance has been studied in the United States.


Several types of earthquake-induced damage are common in

container cranes. The first type occurs when earthquake ground
shaking causes the crane to derail. A derailed crane cannot be
used, but can be repositioned back on the rails in a few
The second
Testing of 1/20 scale container
crane model of NEES@Buffalo
structural damage to
shake table
the crane. This is
more severe because
the damaged portions must be repaired or replaced, which may take
several months. The most severe type of damage is collapse, which
requires the entire crane to be replaced.
To better understand how container cranes respond during an
earthquake, two subscale container crane test specimens were
developed and tested using the NEES at University at Buffalo
(NEES@Buffalo) six-DOF shake table. The first was a 1/20th scale
structure tested during the last quarter of FY09. The objective of the
experiment was to investigate the elastic and uplift behavior of
container cranes.
Results from the first test were used to develop the second
experimental test program, which included the design and
construction of a 1/10th scale model of a container crane. Testing

Weights are attached to the horizontal

and vertical members of the 1/20th
scale model to simulate the weight and
mass distribution of the full scale crane.


was conducted on the NEES@Buffalo shake table during the last

quarter of FY09. The objective of these tests was to measure the
response of the crane from small levels of shaking to those large
enough to cause it to collapse. The data collected from these tests
provided information on the likelihood of each type of damage as
a function of the level of shaking, allowing computer models of
cranes to be developed and verified. When damage to the test
crane occurred, repairs similar to those used in the field were
made. The repaired crane was tested again to determine how well
the repairs performed during subsequent seismic events. These
tests were the largest ever performed in the U. S. and the first to
include collapse.

Testing of 1/10 scale container

crane model on NEES@Buffalo
shake table

The results of this comprehensive series of large scale tests will be

used to assess the expected performance of existing container cranes and, if necessary, design retrofit
measures to reduce the possibility of damage during earthquakes. The test results will also be used to develop
improved design standards for future cranes. The NEES@Buffalo site was awarded an Honorable Mention for
Outstanding Support to Researcher for their role in this Grand Challenge project at the NEES Annual Meeting
in 2009.
Seaports, critical assets in this era of global trade, face unique seismic risk issues due to the nature of their
infrastructure, long-range planning horizon, political autonomy and diversity of stakeholder interests.
Addressing the challenges posed by these issues requires a multidisciplinary approach that integrates civil
engineering, logistics, risk analysis, and social science within a performance-based earthquake engineering
framework that focuses on the port system rather than its individual components. This systems-level approach
is essential for estimating the full scope of direct and indirect losses and planning for business continuity
following an earthquake. The container crane tests have yielded valuable data on the type and severity of
damage expected during earthquakes of differing intensity. This leads directly to estimates of downtime and
business interruption losses that enable port stakeholders to more effectively manage seismic risk.
The systems-level seismic risk analysis framework developed in this project is applicable to other infrastructure
systems where the performance of the system is paramount and overshadows the performance of individual
components within the system. In addition, U.S. ports are thought to be one of the most vulnerable
components of the nations transportation system to terrorist threats. Like natural hazards, acts of terrorism are
low probability-high consequence events that reduce the throughput capacity of the port by causing damage
to some or all of its facilities. In this respect, the port operations models developed in this study can be used to
determine the effects of disruptions on the throughput capacity regardless of the hazard, thus they can be
used to mitigate losses due to terrorism and contribute to increased homeland security.
Award Number: 0530478
Award Title: Seismic Risk Mitigation for Port Systems
PI: Glenn Rix
Sponsor: GA Tech Research Corporation - GA Institute of Technology

UB Shake Table Test of Container

Cranes Largest Ever Performed
In United States